Mary Carton Mitchener and Maggie Hill made great strides in their respective sections during Week 5 of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, February 8-12 in Wellington, Florida.
Mary Carton, 18, a senior in high school, graduated to the Amateurs this show season and has made a smooth transition. During WEF 5, she guided Trinity to the blue ribbon in the 3’3” Amateur-Owner, 18-35, Handy class.
“She watched the videos of me showing him earlier in the week, and I think they really helped her fine-tune her own riding,” said trainer Liza Boyd. “She saw what a strong and confident ride I gave him. She rode him a little bit stronger, with more pace, energy and took more of a feel of his mouth, and that made a big difference.”
Mary Carton, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has ridden with Finally Farm since she was on a Children’s Pony Hunter, so making the transition to the Amateurs is a major milestone and testament to her commitment to the sport.
Liza was especially impressed with Mary Carton’s inside turns, where she maintained balance and impulsion. “She was super handy and impressive,” said Liza smiling. “Even her mom said she had to close her eyes when Mary Carton took the inside turns! I was proud of her confidence and how strong she rode him. She really earned that blue ribbon, and winning a class in the Grand Hunter Ring was great for her.”
Wyoming-based Junior Maggie Hill also scored a blue ribbon in her Handy class, winning the 3’3” Junior Hunter class aboard Co Co Chanel.
“I was incredibly impressed with Maggie’s ride in the Handy, and I feel like her performance resulted from how well she’s practiced and prepared for the Handy tests during our lessons. In each lesson, we’ve been emphasizing something that would be asked on Handy course, and we even work on these questions in our flatwork. Maybe we practice a tight turn around a jump or trot a small jump or focus on a bending line. I feel like this homework has prepared all of our riders well for the courses they’ll see here in the show ring.”
Liza described this week’s Handy courses as challenging, from a trot jump, to tight rollbacks, inside turn options to bending lines. She also credited Maggie’s extra practice rides aboard Shamrock for helping her gain confidence during her recent move up from Children’s to Junior Hunters.
“The past two weeks we worked on gymnastics at home with Shamrock, and we set a tight one-stride combination to a five- or six-stride line to a normal one-stride. Having her do that exercise back and forth helped Maggie figure out how to use her body position to help Shamrock get his best jump. Then, in the show ring, we could see how her improved position in the air allowed everything to flow more smoothly. That practice really carried over, and she was able to make the tight inside turns with organization and balance.”
During Week 5, Finally Farm welcomed new client Sarah Ekola, of Blythewood, South Carolina, to the barn. She rode Zanzibar to excellent ribbons and the reserve championship, out of 36 entries, in the Children’s, 15-17, section during her first visit to the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit.
“We are so happy to have Sarah in the barn. She came down to try horses and leased Zanzibar for the week,” said Liza. “Her mom said Sarah was thrilled, and the experience even exceeded her own expectations, which her mom said rarely happens. Being down here for the first time can be overwhelming, but Sarah was great and took it all in stride. She was also second in the THIS Children’s Medal, with a wonderful ride.”
Liza enjoyed her own blue ribbons during Week 5, including one with Finally Farm’s Ballerino. “We bought him as a stallion, gelded him and then turned him out for a year to let him mature,” said Liza. “He hadn’t shown since August of 2015 and went straight into the 3’6” Green Hunters in the Grand Hunter Ring and won the first class with an 88. We’ll continue to work on his rideability here in Florida. He’s a lovely jumper and fun horse, and I’m thrilled to have him back.”
Liza also enjoyed the ride aboard Rolling Hills Show Stable’s sale horse Callahan. “He a young hunter that just showed one day in the 3’ Green Hunters, but he was impressive and was second out of 28 over fences,” said Liza. “He has a bright future ahead of him.”
Elle Boyd continued her blue-ribbon streak in the Short Stirrup section, winning a class aboard Otis Spunkmeyer. Perhaps Elle’s highlight of the week, though, was attending the Cavalia show during the Equestrian Aid Benefit on Sunday night.
“We went with Louise Serio and her granddaughter Mary Jo, Elle’s friend, and it was so much fun,” said Liza. “The kids were amazed with the horses and how they performed without tack, the bowing and the rearing. It was a fun way to end a great week.”